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Haus der Kunst announces Mel Bochner – If the Color Changes

Haus der Kunst presents Mel Bochner – If the Color Changes on view 7 March–23 June 2013.

Mel Bochner, Master of the Universe, 2010. Oil and acrylic on canvas (2 panels), 254 x 190.5 cm. Collection Anita & Burton Reiner, Washington DC. © Mel Bochner.

Mel Bochner (b.1940 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is part of a generation of New York artists who emerged in the 1960s at a time when painting was increasingly discussed as outmoded. Bochner was a pioneer in introducing language into the visual field, which led Harvard University art historian Benjamin Buchloh to describe his 1966 Working Drawings as ‘probably the first truly conceptual exhibition.’ Having returned to painting in the 1980s, the artist in his most recent series of ‘thesaurus paintings’ achieves a symbiosis of language and colour that is as intellectually complex as it is visually stimulating.

Mel Bochner is considered one of the founders of Conceptual Art, which, in the early 1960s, among other things challenged painting as the primary art form. Bochner used language extensively in his works and in a variety of media such as sculpture, photography, drawing and installation. In his more recent work he has increasingly re-examined painting, whose death he declares a “crime passionelle,” whereby his own conceptual visual language contributes to critical insights about the novel contemporary possibilities of painting.

The exhibition explores the question of what happens when an artist, whose work over more than 40 years contributed to a radical change in the context in which it developed, re-explores established issues of his work in a new context. In other words, what is the relationship between Bochner’s instrumentalization of painting, his detachment from the object, his use of language and color in the 1960s and 70s and the developments in his work during the last ten years and how do these reflect the changes in art and its discourse in recent decades?

These questions are the focus of the presentation, which includes a variety of media ranging from early small sculptures and drawings, to installations and wall paintings, to photographs and paintings. Early seminal works are juxtaposed with recent ones to demonstrate how similar ideas can lead to dissimilar results. The exhibition provides the long overdue opportunity to see key works of conceptual art, but also the chance to reconsider the 40-year-long debate on painting, the nature of artworks, their exchange value, and the identity of the artist, as they appear in the expressions of Bochner’s career.

The exhibition was organised by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, in collaboration with Haus der Kunst, München, and the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto.

Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstrasse 1
80538 Munich, Germany
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10–8pm
Thursday 10–10pm
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